Penn lacrosse competes as a member of the Ivy League and Division I of the NCAA. Both Penn men’s and women’s lacrosse teams play their home games at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, the oldest operating football stadium in the NCAA.
In 1890, Penn established a club lacrosse team that played periodically. However, 1900 acted as the first official season of men’s varsity lacrosse for Penn and marks the beginning of the lacrosse program.
The Provost Report from 1905 discussed how provisions had been made for indoor lacrosse practice, by rigging a system of nets in Weightman Hall. However, this was only a temporary measure.
A women’s varsity lacrosse program wasn't established at Penn until 1974, and before this time the women's club lacrosse team wasn’t taken as seriously as the men’s club team.
“I was very involved in Penn Athletics, playing both field hockey and lacrosse at a time when women weren’t taken seriously as athletes. Women sports, except for swimming, were considered hobby clubs,” Ernesta Ballard, class of 1967, reported in the yearbook.
Since their promotion to the varsity level, the Penn men’s lacrosse team has won the Ivy League title five times, in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, and 2019. In 1975, the Quakers men’s team made it to the NCAA Division I quarterfinals for the first time. The Quakers have advanced to the NCAA tournament 12 times, with the most recent being in 2019.
The first year the Red and Blue women’s lacrosse team made it to the NCAA quarterfinals was in 1983, after finishing that season 9-5. In 2007, the Quakers made the NCAA semifinals for the first time.
During the 1988 season, Penn men's lacrosse reached the Final Four in the NCAA tournament under coach Tony Seaman. Midfielder Chris Flynn was named first-team All-American. The Red and Blue lost a close match to Syracuse 11-10, a game in which Syracuse’s Gary Gait performed his famous “Air Gait” goal.
In the 2011 season, Penn men's lacrosse team went 8-7 under coach Mike Murphy and made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006, for their 11th overall appearance. The Red and Blue defeated opponents Duke and Princeton in the regular season but lost to Notre Dame in the first round of the tournament. The Fighting Irish were finalists in the tournament the year prior, and had spent a chunk of the 2011 season ranked No. 1 in the country.
Also during the 2011 season, both the Penn men’s and women’s lacrosse teams made their respective fields, something that has only happened in 1983 and 1984.
During the shortened 2020 season, men’s lacrosse were coming off a historic season in which they won Ivy League Championship. In Jan. 2020, the Quakers were picked to finish second in their conference in the Ivy League’s Preseason Media Poll. The Red and Blue were also ranked No. 18 in the country for the 2021 Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 Poll.
Penn women’s lacrosse is prepped and ready to get back on the turf as they enter the 2021 campaign ranked No. 11 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Preseason Top 20. The Red and Blue are the highest-ranked team out of the Ivy League, with Dartmouth coming in at No. 16. The Quakers hope to notch the program’s 14th Ivy League title and 16th NCAA Championship appearance. Not counting the abbreviated 2020 season, the Red and Blue women’s lacrosse team has made the NCAA postseason for 13 consecutive seasons and earned the Ivy League title for 11 of the last 13 years.
While this past season was cut short for Penn's lacrosse teams due to COVID-19, each squad will have the opportunity to replicate the success of former Quaker teams once play returns.